Sunday, February 9, 2014

VGR Deep Fear

A hero with a cold, a survival horror deep beneath the Ocean.

VGR: Deep Fear
From Sega AM7/System Sacom/SIMS/ISCO/Sega
Played on Sega Saturn
Also available on /

Type survival horror
Year 1998

Developed by Sega - with some help on additional work on the CGi and designs by other studios SIMS & ISCO - exclusively for the Sega Saturn system, Deep Fear was simply put Sega's answer for Capcom's Resident Evil.

More or less, Resident Evil underwater.

Deep Fear was inspired by all those classic underwater horror films from the 1980s, such as DeepStar Six, Leviathan, or The Abyss.

Like the original Resident Evil, it also had that B-movie feel.

The story begins with a mysterious object falling from the sky, deep beneath the Pacific Ocean.
A submarine, the Seafox is dispatched to explore the situation where it landed. 
You play as John Mayor, an ex-Navy SEAL who just joined the Emergency Rescue Services (or ERS). John was affected to this underwater research facility named the Big Table SSB-01.
The game begins John has just caught a cold. He's still not really used to life in this moist environment. Our adventure starts on April 1st. That's right. April's Fool! His young protégé and assistant called Mookie had just pulled a prank on him with a girl that seems to have a crush on our hero.

Since the communication with the Seafox was lost, John is sent to investigate the problem... only to find out a strange airborne virus spreading quickly through Big Table.

They soon find a threat like they weren't expecting! On this day, of all days!

The local Big Table facility works as a huge HUB/world from where you go exploring the new areas. The encounters with the characters inhabiting the base will move the story forward. Those faces include the shady Commander Clancy, the very reserved lead researcher Gena Weisburg and even several animals including a dolphin, a little bulldog and an aggressive chimpanzee who always seem to escape at the very worst moments...
Deep Fear is Sega's own take on the whole survival horror genre.
The controls here are a bit more advanced than in the original Resident Evil. The game also use the very same cinematic camera and relative controls (up to move the character forward, down to go back and rotate with left and right).

You can arm your weapon to aim. The other trigger button auto-aims, very useful when in crowded spaces or amongst various enemies. The only main noticeable difference in Deep Fear is that you can walk while armed with your gun, moving freely to escape or run from your foes.

The inventory isn't plagued by a limit as well, since you're actually carrying weapons separate from the very strict minimum items. You can also use a quick shortcut set to a grenade or other additional items.

This means the game features great controls smoothing up the usually annoying RE-style tank controls.
Finally there's only two main indications up on the HUD screen. Your health. And your air. That's right, Oxygen had a big gimmick mechanic in Deep Fear.

Throughout the game you learn to use the Air System units.

You can use these AS points to save your game or replenish an area in oxygen if the air's lacking or leaking through the installations (indicated on the map and on screen as a countdown number).

Once John will get his own oxygen Regulator, you will be able to explore areas without air (or use air grenades in those places if you need to).

As far as weapons go you will gain access to more and more guns. You can rotate freely between main weapons whenever you want to. When you find a locker room you can grab more ammo or select the secondary weapon of your choice. They range from the usual pistol to several types of shotguns and rifles.

You can find several types of first aid sprays to heal yourself.

In this game you can always recharge guns in infinite lockers and find some unlimited first aid sprays points. This means as long as you are able to go back to those points to restock you can keep yourself alive pretty easily.

The main challenge is to often go back and restock yourself. And keep an eye on your oxygen.

You will explore more and more areas as you gain clearance to new restricted zones and the protagonists will try to find a way to escape from this locked up place.

The mutant creatures will get worse as the time progress and they continue to further evolve.

The creature design was conceived by manga artist Yasushi Nirasawa. A Japanese illustrator behind various Kamen Rider character designs over the year and the monsters featured in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger (Power Rangers Megaforce).

Sort of a cross between The Abyss and The Thing. And that's a great way to describe the tone of the game, it has that same claustrophobic and stressful atmosphere.

The monsters will expand in the entire station little by little as you find out notes containing the backstory behind the virus.

The boss fights often take place whenever unexpected and in some pretty closed spaces, in very small rooms. Although some can be entirely skipped if you are careful.

Deep Fear contains some great FMV cutscenes and great creature designs.

Although on the voice acting part, it's a bit more mixed. While fairly standard for the time, with some decent voices on the most parts for our main hero, there's also some truly bizarre (bad?) voices. And I'm thinking particularly of the "fabulous" French scientist Dubois Amalric.

The game is over 2 CDs long, which is pretty decent and a quite long game for the genre. There's a lot of backtracking back and forth. Specially on the final chapters, a lot of going back around on errands for the crew you are trying to save (think Zelda).

The music was done by Ghost in the Shell composer Kenji Kawai. While the game mostly tends to be quiet, atmospheric and eerie while cleaning up the areas, in cutscenes or action sequences it can get quite dramatic and almost epic in proportions.

Overall, Deep Fear is a pretty good Resident Evil clone, not without its fair share of originality and contributions to the survival horror genre.

It's perhaps a bit too easy and won't prove much of a challenge if you're used to the genre.

Since you can here almost always fully recharge ammunitions stock, select guns whenever you want and find some health packs in great number, the only real danger lies in your management of the oxygen and items you bring along.

The idea is to actually put the player in the tense situation of an underwater facility, more than the actual scares. The game has some great ideas on that aspect.

It was actually the very last Sega Saturn game released in Europe and since the system never made much an impact in the US, the NTSC version was scrapped altogether (increasing its value and how expensive a copy can get nowadays in second hand).

It's very similar in tone to the later Dreamcast title Carrier.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Quacks!


  1. A thorough review to my favorite survival horror game on the Saturn. Excellent soundtrack and the game (at least for me) makes the player genuinely care for the characters with its story and emotional cutscenes. Love this game, but to me even the hero John Mayor suffered from poor voice acting, and that's primarily due to the delivery of his lines. You say the game is over 2 CDs long, but the UK version I own is only 2 CDs in length.

    My only true complaint is that once you complete the game, that's it- there's nothing to unlock to entice you play again. Wish Sega could've included some extras. I also wish/hope for Sega to make a sequel someday, but that's highly unlikely to happen.

    Loving the humorous artwork you provided for the review. Thanks for giving some attention to such an underrated classic!


    1. Hi there, thanks for checking my review ;)

      I dunno for you, but "2 CDs long" sounds about the exact same thing as "2 CDs in length" :P
      ...? A typo on your part maybe?

    2. Hi Eyz,

      I was referring to when you said "The game is over 2 CDs long, which is pretty decent and a quite long game for the genre". As far as I know the game is only two discs, not "over 2 CDs" which implies/means more than 2. ;)


    3. Oh, yeah. Different formulation, same meaning.
      - It's over "2 CDs" long.
      as in
      it is 2 CDs long. Spread over 2 CDs. Not more than 2!

      No worries ;)

      'You from the UK?

    4. No, in the US. Was doing some research on Deep Fear via Google and found your page and review, glad I did too! I look forward to reading your other reviews and don't be surprised if I leave comments on them as well. Stay tuned... ;)